My first meeting in Roger Ailes’ boardroom of doom was on Election Day 2010.
At the time, I was the network’s new political editor. Republicans were poised to deliver a serious walloping to President Barack Obama and roll back the Democrats’ doughty majorities in both houses of Congress. The GOP was in a position to score major wins in governors’ mansions and statehouses from coast to coast.
The second floor of the News Corp headquarters on Sixth Avenue in New York was a hive of excited optimism. With Republicans looking forward to big wins, we knew viewership would be enormous that night. I was invited to the regular afternoon executive meeting for the first time so I could lay out the expectations we had on the Decision Desk and the politics team for what would transpire that night. I had only been with the company for about four months, and I was sweating it hard as I sat there at the far end from Ailes at a conference table roughly the size of a World War II aircraft carrier. The meeting was packed. Not only were executives from New York crowding in, but people like my boss Bill Sammon, who would have ordinarily joined the afternoon meeting by phone, were attending in person.
It felt like a steam bath in there, and I was running on about two hours of sleep and too many energy drinks. I had been up all night finishing the cards that we would use on the desk and the anchors would use on-air for quick reference guides on each race. They all had to be perfect (they still weren’t), but I couldn’t make my colleagues look foolish quoting my bad data. Plus, these were the five-inch by eight-inch little life rafts that I could hold on to as I tried to run the rapids of the many, many calls we were going to have to make that night. How many Republican votes in 2004 in Ozaukee County? When did the incumbent win his first term? What did the last polls say? Didn’t her husband used to have that seat?
After four straight days and nights of data obsession and rehearsals, I had to now appear to be a normal human in front of a room full of New Yorkers to whom I assume I appeared to be a sweaty bumpkin. [Continue reading…]